There’s Awesome and There’s Awe

Written by Kathy Jacobson

Dec 3, 2023

I went on a nice long hike the day before Thanksgiving. It’s one way I express gratitude for the health and strength I continue to enjoy. The day was a perfect temperature. The trail was the perfect degree of difficulty. Everyone I encountered (mostly bicyclists) was pleasantly willing to share the trail. All-in-all, it was awesome. It could not have been more perfect.

I was awestruck by the cloudless blue sky, the clarity of the air, the subtle browns and golds of the season.

I have noticed over the years, that sometimes awe strikes without warning and vibrates through my body with an intensity that leaves me breathless, as when I suddenly see a particularly stunning sunset. More often, it seems to be a conscious choice on my part. I can open myself to the experience of awe by simply choosing to attune my senses to nature, or art, or genius, or the universe.

Awe is one of the emotions I consider to be a Creator emotion. It’s a process of stepping outside of oneself and into something greater than self. We experience awe when we listen to great music with a whole heart. Or when we can appreciate the highest levels of human achievement in dance or sport. Or when we value life.

I think I experienced awe more spontaneously when I was young than when I do now. I used to gasp out loud when I saw something beautiful or amazing, and my gasp would catch my husband off guard. He’d jerk around and say, “What is it?!” as if something were the matter. I’d point at whatever had caught my attention, and he’d say, “Don’t scare me like that.”

Now the term “How awesome,” slides off my tongue as just another figure of speech. I say it whenever I’m impressed, even when I’m not experiencing the soul-deep vibration of awe.

On the other hand, I don’t have to wait for something impressive to happen to open my senses and experience the joy, the gratitude, the excitement, and the other emotions that seem a part of awe. I can do it by choosing to, by becoming still and open, and by letting awe come to me.

And when I do this, when I am willing and intentional, I find there is beauty everywhere. There is amazing life everywhere. And as I am filled with the awe of it, I am also humbled by the glory that surrounds me.

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